By Greg Bush
From a customer experience perspective, a quality interaction is everything. How many times have you spoken with contact center agents and wondered if they understood what you really needed? Did they get your order correct? Were they even listening?
While we’ve all had these experiences and we all agree quality should be the focus of any contact center, it’s not as easy as telling your agents do ten things on the checklist. Below are six critical steps needed to successfully implement a quality program that will influence customer experience.
1) Think about Customer Experience First: Habit number two from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is “Begin with the end in mind.” We must think first about the kind of customer experience we desire. What is the purpose of your contact center? Is it sales, customer service, help desk support, or maybe a combination? What do customers hope to get when they contact you? Are they ordering a product or service? Do they need help with a product they have already purchased? When you think about the types of reasons customers contact you and the purpose of your contact center, you can begin to understand what makes up a quality customer experience. Also, do not limit your quality program to phone calls. Your program should be multi-channel, including all customer interactions such as email, chat, and social media.
2) Agent Acceptance: When implementing a quality program, it’s important to have the buy-in from those doing the job. Get your agents involved in deciding what quality looks like from the beginning. Agents should have input in the development of scripting, what will be evaluated, and the evaluation process. Form a task force comprised of a few agents, supervisors, the contact center manager, and the training manager. Participating agents will become advocates for the program to the rest of the agents. In addition, the agents on the task force will gain a better understanding of management’s expectations, and other agents will feel their voice is being represented in the process.
3) Training: Don’t assume that agents understand and know how to incorporate all the criteria in the new quality program. During the rollout process, it’s not only important to communicate what the new quality program looks like, but training should be given on all aspects of the quality criteria. During this time it’s important to communicate the expectations of a quality interaction and how often agents will be evaluated.
4) Calibration: Once the quality criteria are agreed on, you’ll need to make sure that the evaluators are consistent. Anyone who will be performing evaluations (supervisors, mangers, trainers, or the quality team) should review and discuss customer interactions to ensure that the evaluation process is standardized. It’s best to have the participants review several calls on their own and submit their evaluation sheets and comments before the meeting. This will prevent anyone from falling victim to peer pressure and changing his or her evaluation during the meeting and then not apply the same process later. During the calibration meeting, everyone should listen to the calls and review their evaluation notes. The outcome of this process should yield clear guidelines regarding the evaluation process.
5) Ongoing Training: The purpose of implementing a quality process is to ensure that each customer has the same experience by standardizing the agent interaction. Those evaluating agents will need to provide feedback and training on the steps the agents need to take to improve. If there are several agents needing training in the same areas, then it’s usually best to involve training. Another good way to train and further gain agent buy-in is by implementing a mentor program. Have your best agents mentor the ones that need help (often this will be new hires). The agent receiving the help will feel more comfortable with their peer, and the mentor will become more accountable to the quality process.
6) Recognition: Recognition is the lifeblood of contact centers. You can never provide too much recognition and rewards to keep your staff motivated and reinforce positive behavior. You’ll need to design a recognition program around the quality process. You can do this by recognizing the top performers in quality over a set period, such as a month or quarter.
A fun way is give spot recognition when you observe a great customer interaction. The recognition does not have to be monetary in value; however, it should be public. One way to publically recognize quality is to email a file of the call and specifically state in the email the areas agent did well and how it influenced customer experience. In addition to recognizing the great performance of the agent, you’re also providing a good example for others to hear and implement.
While a new quality program will not prevent bad customer experiences, the goal is to minimize them. A quality program that is embraced by everyone involved is your first step in creating a better experience for customers. Following these steps to introduce a new quality program to your contact center will not only create a better customer experience, but it will also provide a better experience for everyone on your team.
Greg Bush is a call center executive with over fifteen years of industry experience. His background includes both sales and customer service. He is experienced in call center start-up and turnaround, driving revenue by placing a strong focus on best practices and innovative technology. You can contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org or 972-822-9283.
[From Connection Magazine – Jan/Feb 2013]